Friday, 27 February 2009

Nostagic shots of Southampton

Jessica Hart's latest posting (Thoughts and Ramblings), which mentioned an incident on a chain ferry, has prompted me to me to dig out some old shots of Southampton that I'd scanned from transparencies a while back. They're on my linked Flickr site if you want to see them. They're basically shots of the old Floating Bridge and two pictures relating to the 1976 triumph of Southampton FC over Manchester United in the FA Cup Final. I'm not a football fan, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the general atmosphere of euphoria that gripped the city, and I well remember the seething crowd of easily 100,000 that thronged around the Civic Centre, and how someone illicitly climbed up the clocktower and 'conducted' some cheers before removal. And everyone turned out to see the Saints team tour the city by bus. The victory depended on an odd goal from a young player, Bobby Stokes I think. I bought a scarf and a commemorative mirror, both long gone now, although my teddy bear Teddy Tinkoes is still dressed in Soton colours. I seem to remember that one of the team, Rodrigues, took over a pub in Totton and with my friends at the time we went down there to check it out. Southampton was very sport-orientated in the 1970s, cricket as much as football, and the players and managers were very accessable, almost household characters. I met Kevin Keegan once at The Dell; my girlfriend at the time knew him slightly. But the venue for meeting a well-known cricketer, Barry Richards, a Millbrook club, was a scene of embarrassment for me later in 1976, when the spiteful whining old codger at the door thought I was under-age and wouldn't let me in. He made a huge fuss. Perhaps I was a little brash. My girlfriend had to vouch for me, and guarantee my good behaviour. I was 24 at the time. I wonder what he would have thought of demure Lucy Melford?

Losing the last friend

I lost an old friend yesterday. A friend of twenty-four years' standing. We hadn't seen each other every day, or even every week: we just met up once a month. But we'd done that for a very, very long time indeed.

He had to be told how it was with me. I owed it to him; it was dishonest and inconsistent with friendship to keep dodging the gender issue. The time had come to tell him the facts, to literally show him what was in the wardrobe if I wasn't believed. He was duly shown. I gave him some personal history, things I'd only recently been able to tell anyone at all. He received it all without drama, without making a judgment on me, but with deep sadness. He just wasn’t ready to give me acceptance and support with the full situation thrust at him all in one go. The revelation was too much to take in. I was asking for too great an adjustment. I was asking him to accept something desperately strange and out of his ordinary experience. Something that he'd never suspected about me: I'd hidden it all too well.

He did wonder whether I might still be slightly undecided about transition, and, with my interests at heart, he suggested alternative therapy or counseling, a second opinion as it were, but desisted when he saw that I was unshakeable, fully determined. I was indeed committed because a part-time existence in two separate locations, two separate houses, trying to juggle two very different lives, was too Jekyll-and-Hyde for comfort, too much of a strain. So I’d resolved to give my Lucy persona as close to 100 per cent as feasible. He asked me to phone him after my cruise with Dad, and I said I would. We shook hands and I walked with him to his car. But I never got there. I had to turn away before he saw how upset I was.

Friends - as opposed to family - have the option of walking out of your life completely and forever. I couldn't be quite certain that this one had, and I hoped not, but it all seemed pretty final, and I felt that a part of me had been destroyed. Twenty-four years; my oldest and best friend. The last friend left from my old life.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Muscle ache

I've had aching arm muscles ever since I slimmed down last autumn. I didn't do it wisely, and lost not only a lot of girth but a lot of muscle tone. And strength. I'm not much of a girl yet, but I'm already useless at lifting or pushing anything heavy. Rather embarrassing when you try to leave a store in a cool and elegant manner, only to end up bracing your backside against the doorway in order to make an escape. At times like that I really appreciate having the door held for me by gentlemen, whether done ironically or not. And it's one of those moments when other women, real ones, smile at me in a 'join the club, sister' sort of way, and when it's kindly done I feel much less undignified.

When I wake up in the morning it's ache, ache, ache. It gets better as the morning wears on, but this isn't good. Of course, it may simply be OLD AGE. But I'm not about to admit THAT. I reckon that, lightning strikes and terrorist bombs aside, I've got 20 or even 30 years more to fill in, and I want to do it without pain. I'm a bit fed up with Tesco, from whom I ordered Darcy Bussell's 'Pilates For Life' before Christmas, and it still hasn't arrived. I need it for my posture. I've got the mat. I need the DVD - are you listening, Tesco?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

New photo for the 'About Me' section

Let's move on from the legs shot. Here's me in a black jacket instead.

Funeral Day 2 - over and done with

Well it all went off fine. The Humanist service was impressive and moving. I accomplished my six-minute spot in the middle in a clear voice, without hesitation or wobbles, although the last two lines of the poem nearly did for me.

And now it's over. Dad is OK; the nibbles went down pretty well; all the usual nice things were said (and meant); and I feel a bit tired and used-up. Dad and I intend to scatter Mum's ashes in his back garden tomorrow. I would have scattered them on the top of Snowdon if need be. Or Haystacks, come to that. Mum was fond of walking.

It really feels like the end of an era. I knew when I took off my funeral outfit a couple of hours ago that I'd probably be wearing it again soon enough, but somehow it feels like a strange drab kind of uniform that I used to wear but don't anymore. It was telling that when putting on the suit jacket, which was double-breasted, I attempted to button it right-over-left, rather than left-over-right. I am getting conditioned to the female way of wearing clothes. What else will change?

At the gathering at Dad's after the funeral, the hair kept on getting loose. Nobody said anything about it, but surely people wondered. Surely they did. Well, I will keeping growing my hair longer and longer now, although I'll pay for a really expert cut before the cruise. No turning back now. Somehow I feel launched. New Age, new person.

Funeral Day

Well I can't sleep. So it's a cup of tea and a blog session, just for something to do for an hour, then I'll go back to bed and try to drift off. At least nearly everything is done or arranged, apart from little things like cleaning the black leather shoes that I've hardly worn since retiring in May 2005. They last had an outing in November 2006 at another funeral. Shoes for sad occasions. Tearwear.

Dad's OK. He was content to know that there's nothing he has to do except sit in the limousine, then in a pew at the chapel, then in the limousine again, and so back to his armchair at home, although he can't then just turn on the telly or doze off: there will be people coming back too and he will have to be very sociable for a couple of hours. That's where I can be of slight use, keeping an eye on him, and generally sustaining the flow and level of chat and happy remembrances. I'm quite good at chatting away about nothing at all (exuberantly, as Richard Curtis my London gender doctor described me to my GP), especially if there are some nice things to nibble, and I've personally ensured that will indeed the case. No booze; this isn't a wake. Dad likes his whisky and I like a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, but this isn't the occasion, especially as nearly everyone apart from one set of neighbours has a longish way to travel later that afternoon. Nobody's stopping over. That's probably the best thing. There'll be a moment, say at five-thirty, when Dad can be alone. If he's still all right I'll leave him be, and come away.

But I'll see him next day and make sure he's going to survive. I've been setting up things for him to look forward to, or fill up his time in a challenging way. For instance, a cruise. He used to cruise annually with Mum until she felt too ill to make the effort. I knew that he had four years of cancelled or unbooked cruising stored up in his mind. I can't be Mum, but I can be a companion, a sort of attentive daughter perhaps. You see them on Saga holidays, fifty-something daughters with their eighty-something dads, obviously very close, making sure that their father doesn't fall and doesn't have a sad moment. That'll be me. Except that I'll have to do it in male garb, despite the long hair and nails and the female hormone treatment kicking in. Mind you, I've made up my mind to frequent the onboard gym in more flattering garments.

I've never been on a cruise before. I'm assuming that there'll be plenty to shoot with my Nikon - onboard life as well as ports of call. And that I can indulge my penchant for shooting food. The full-frame Nikon D700 is a big heavy beast, and it sports Nikon's f2.8 24-70 zoom, also no featherweight. Not ideal for the restaurant table, but needs must. I bought both together last August. The camera seems to be the first in some kind of series, the number on the body being 2016000. (I wish I knew what significance that has) Anyway, having taken camera and lens out of their boxes and immediately locked them together, they have remained like that, perhaps Till Death Do Us Part. I have to say that the performance of that lens is impeccable, brilliantly suiting the D700's amazing low-light capabilities. Yes of course a longer telephoto would be nice, but then I have here a combo that will do nicely for most of the shots I like to take, and so long as I don't change lenses, and let air in, I will stay dust-free. Put it another way, I'd rather buy another body and fix another lens on that. I also have a little Ricoh GX100, but it's no good in poor light.

Sorry for the photo talk. It's just babble. I'm going back to bed now.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

My address at Mum's funeral on Wednesday 18 February

There's only Dad and myself now. My younger brother died in 1995 in a car crash, just before Christmas, and there are no other siblings. Dad is 88, and magnificent as he is being in the face of death, I want to protect him from as much upset and trouble as I can. So the funeral address falls on me. I always thought it would, but I really don't want to be centre stage, no I don't.

My appearance is going to cause comment. My face used to look chubby and Neanderthal, now it has girly elements such as plucked eyebrows. My hair is too long to look right, but not long enough to tie back out of the way. Perhaps I can pin it. I've shrunk. My manly funeral outfit - grey overcoat, dark business suit, white shirt, black tie, black scarf, black shoes - will look way oversize and odd. I suppose it will hide how thin I've become. Anyway, do I really care? I have a duty to perform, and must do it well and properly. And besides, surely nobody there will do other than listen to what I have to say. They won't be looking at my nails or my ladies watch or the rings.

I suppose I could trim the hair, cut the nails, and take off the watch and rings, but that would seem grossly dishonest. Nevertheless I haven't the courage to be completely honest and go dressed. The Humanist Celebrant who will preside, a man I have the greatest confidence in, asked me about this (I felt I could tell him about myself). I said that almost nobody there would be prepared for the shock. I didn't want to be contraversial. I wanted everyone to think only of Mum. It was surely excuse enough. Please accept that if you can.

I didn't get the chance to tell Mum that her elder son, of whom she was so proud, had all along had a lifetime of hangups, and now had a Serious Biggie to explain. All she knew was that there was some preposterous gender thing in my mind. For a short while it must have caused her huge worry. But the morphine was kind, and towards the end I felt that the gender issue - the lurid, awful, embarrassing sex-change issue - had slipped from her mind. And that she was concentrating, so far as she could, on much more essential matters.

I may have an opportunity of a dialogue with my Dad in the weeks ahead. I don't expect his approval. I just want him to understand.

And to round this posting off, here is the text of what I intend to say, with of course names concealed. I hope I can deliver it without faltering. Wish me luck.

REFLECTIONS ON MUM’S LIFE

Thank you, everyone, for coming here to celebrate Mum’s life and witness the final stage of her journey.

She lived a long time, 87 years, and it’s not at all surprising that only a small number of people are here today: many who might have come are now too ill to attend, or have died. It doesn’t matter. If only one of us keeps her in mind, then she will live on.

I’m not going to speak at great length, and I’m certainly not going to give you any kind of biography. Mum had no career, no public role or position, so there’s nothing like that to mention. But I do want to say that she was a good wife and mother, and a good friend to many people.

A good wife, mother and friend: not easy things to be.

The first role, as a wife, needs an abundance of good humour, patience, loyalty and love. Mum gave these things unstintingly to Dad. Each was the making of the other. It was a perfect marriage.

The second role, being a mother, needs kindness, firmness, stamina, selflessness, and – again – love. As much love as needed; and then some more. Mum gave all these things to my brother W--- and myself. We grew up in a safety zone. We grew up never knowing unfairness, or injustice, or any harsh words. Mum and Dad worked together in complete harmony to ensure our welfare, and to teach us what it meant to be truthful, reasonable, honourable and strong. Dad was the rock on which everything stood secure. Mum provided the rest, and was generous with that provision.

As for the third role, being a good friend, Mum was warm-hearted and caring, a lively and gregarious person, reaching out to people. She was always laughing. She was very easy to get on with. She said it about herself that if stuck in a queue for longer than two minutes, she would strike up a conversation with the person next to her, and draw out their entire life history in five minutes more. It was true. I saw it many times, in many situations. People liked her and wanted to share their lives with her. She made many friends, and she kept them. With us today, for instance, is P---, who was at school with Mum, and, nearly 75 years later, still her loyal friend.

Mum had a no-nonsense outlook, and a certain toughness of mind. She was a difficult target for anyone bent on foolishness or dishonesty. Although gentle and courteous, she was firm, fearless for truth, and not afraid to speak her mind. She was not easily fobbed off. I remember (when I was young) how she obtained a very good table at a busy Mediterranean night club, just for the two of us. And she got refunds at shops that I would not dared to have asked for. She just had a way with all kinds of people.

She loved her children. She often said that W--- and myself were boys to be proud of. I think she regretted not having a daughter, but fate decreed that she should have two excellent substitute daughters, G--- and M---. My brother W--- was diabetic and I know that Mum was always supremely grateful to G--- for looking after him so well, organising his medication and making sure that he ate properly. G--- kept him alive. And in later life, M--- was a day to day comfort and support for Mum, eventually becoming the essential recipient of final thoughts that Mum could share only with another woman.

She loved her grandchildren. She was so proud of M--- and J---, and lived to see them establish themselves with a secure future. Grandparents worry about their grandchildren - it’s the eternal way of things - and the knowledge that they had both done well, and were now all right, meant much. It helped her to let go of this life peacefully, and not fight on, tormented by concerns.

I would have liked to have said something about other members of the family, such as Mum’s brother D---, and my step-daughter A---, and all of the many friends who knew Mum. The list would be a long one, and there isn’t enough time to do justice to anybody. I will however recite a short, comforting, and rather eloquent poem which describes Mum’s approach to life rather well. The poem is called ONE AT REST. I tried to find out who wrote it, but no-one seems to know. Here it is anyway:

Think of me as one at rest,
For me you should not weep.
I have no pain, no troubled thoughts,
For I am just asleep.
The living thinking me that was
Is now forever still.
And life goes on without me,
As time forever will.

If your heart is heavy now
Because I’ve gone away,
Dwell not long upon it, friend,
For none of us can stay.
Those of you who liked me
I sincerely thank you all,
And those of you who loved me
I thank you most of all.

In my fleeting lifespan,
As time went rushing by,
I found some time to hesitate,
To laugh, to love, to cry.
Matters it now if time began,
If time will ever cease?
I was here, I used it all,
And now I am at peace.

It takes me six minutes to speak it, but the last two lines of the poem are giving me a problem. I do falter on 'I was here, I used it all'. I don't understand why.

Friday, 13 February 2009

First viewings on my Flickr site

I see that photo 2009 0209 054 is the most popular so far. That's me holding my chest. Hmmm. Who'd want to see that except other transsexuals? Or possibly arty folk who like pictures of hands? Or am I naive about what type of picture appeals? I'll experiment a bit more.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

My Mum is dead

She died in a nursing home on 3 February, shortly after a month or so in a hospice. She was 87. She was on morphine, and I believe felt no pain, but was very sleepy. She was not the Mum I knew six months ago. But she was still my Mum, and now she isn't here any more.

As you see, I began this blog when grieving. It met an immediate need to be flippant and light and anything but tearful. I know very well why I 'went public'. Don't be fooled. I am sitting on a lot of pain, some of which I really don't know how to express, but it will all come out sooner or later. Meanwhile I am the executor, and arrangements have to be made, people seen. My Dad is helping me write the letters, make and answer the phone calls to and from the people Mum touched in her life. I intend to say something at the funeral about her life and her family, and read a poem. I have already written a poem about the day she died, and I'd like to share it with you. It isn't the one I shall read at the funeral, it's too personal and raw for that. Here it is:

UNDER THE SHEET

Strange, how a Hand had wiped away
All my engagements for the day.
Strange, how I'd had to drive behind
An empty hearse, with room for one inside.
And in the gallery, as I studied art,
How strange it was,
That feeling I was playing a part.

Then later in your room,
With the white sheet on your bed,
I stood with a bursting heart
While a storm wave broke in my head.
Oh so cold and pale!
Your face averted,
As if a flame had passed too close.
I hoped the bearer of that fire
Had been a winged angel
Or perhaps the Holy Ghost.

The unbeliever knelt and prayed,
And found some loving words to say.
I wished you in Heaven, and said it through tears,
But they couldn't repair the guilt of years.
I wanted to tell you and explain,
I wanted to tell you my real name.
And speak of this, and this, and this,
But all I could do at the very end
Was to give your cheek the softest kiss.

Lucy Melford
2009 0209

The funeral is on 18 February.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Lucy Melford Flickr site

If you would like to see it, and why not, it's at http://flickr.com/photos/lucymelford/

There's a photo now, sort of

I dislike blogs (and Flickr sites) where there is no clue at all as to what the person looks like. Well, here's a picture of the bottom half of yours truly, and should you pass anyone with legs like that, you'll know it's me. Shoes by Marks and Sparks, size 8, and what a nice fit too. Actually I'm shrinking because although never a size 9 my feet seem to be getting more petite, and something less than 8 may be feasible soon. I think that when I was a 14 and a half stone fatty my feet had plenty of flesh in them to take the pressure, and probably spread out sideways a bit. Three stone lighter, and it's hello Cinderella and can you fit into this glass slipper, why yes I can.

As for my top half, please be patient. It's very much 'nice legs, shame about the face'. I want to grow the hair more, anyway.

What I will do is revive my Flickr site, but as Lucy Melford, and feature some tease photos which reveal aspects of my physiognomy, rather like on a certain TV sports quiz programme where you guess the identity of a well-known sporting personality, except that (a) I'm not one such, and (b) you'll get no points.

It strikes me that I'm probably talking (or typing) to thin air at the moment, but there are weird people who, when they discover a new blog they like, actually go back to the beginning and read forward. I do that, anyway. Can't be unique.

Hello out there

Well it's my turn to say hello, following zillions of Bloggers before me no doubt. Anyone on some kind of personal journey has a compulsive need to go public. Well, I'm no exception. I promise to keep it clean and wholesome, but I can't promise not to be myself. Would you credit it, despite being a trigger-happy photographer with a decent camera, I haven't got a photo ready. I'll put that right asap. Trouble is, it can't be one as I was a few months ago, and my appearance is changing month by month as the hair grows ever longer, so I'll have to keep changing the picture. I may wait until I'm totally unrecognisable. Or maybe a close up of my awful agricultural nose will do pro tem.

Next problem: what on earth to write about. I'll give it profound thought.